Kentucky Officials Award Funds to Freight-Moving River Ports

September 11, 2020: Transport Topics (full link below)

Kentucky officials recently announced $450,000 has been awarded to five river ports to assist with critical repairs and equipment improvements.

The funds were distributed unevenly to the authorities that operate ports in Paducah, Eddyville, Henderson, Owensboro and Louisville. The awards, administered by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, will be matched by the port authorities.

Louisville, Owensboro and Henderson lie on the Ohio River, which runs along Kentucky’s northern border. Paducah sits near the fork of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Eddyville is situated on a bend in the Cumberland River.

“One of our greatest natural assets in Kentucky is our abundance of navigable waterways, and river commerce is an indelible part of our rich history,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Our Kentucky river ports help move the nation’s cargo, and it is essential to keep them modernized and well-maintained.”

The largest individual grant, for $120,082, was awarded to the Owensboro Riverport Authority to help purchase a front-end loader for handling daily shipments of bulk products, which can include corrosive materials such as fertilizer and ammonium nitrate.

The Henderson County Riverport Authority received $108,000 to remove and replace two 40-year-old mooring dolphins, which are structures that extend into the water so that vessels can be secured to them. Greg Pritchett, port director of the Henderson County Riverport Authority, said the mooring dolphins have reached the end of their useful lives, having been in place since the 1980s.

The Henderson County port processes freight barges moving along the Ohio River, Pritchett said. He noted inbound materials often include metals, such as zinc and aluminum, and fertilizer; outbound products include grains. Incoming materials are distributed throughout the region.

“We’re a public facility, but we also end up servicing the general economy of the businesses around us,” Pritchett told Transport Topics. “We’re just glad that we’re in the position to find some money to do restoration work and keep this facility functioning.”

Some $109,890 was awarded to the Eddyville Riverport and Industrial Development Authority to address the erosion of banks that support a boat lift located in a boat repair bay. Work will involve driving sheet piling along the bank and backfilling with embankment material.

The Louisville-Jefferson County Riverport Authority was awarded $95,792 to help replace 1,000 crossties and 49 switch ties that support rail lines within the port facility. When ties wear out, they can lose the ability to hold spikes and rails can shift, leading to closures for repair.

Matt Yates, vice president of the Louisville-Jefferson County Riverport Authority, said the agency owns 13 miles of rail that offer the port and local companies access to three railroads.

“Rail, along with river and highway, provide a strong multimodal advantage for those seeking options in shipping and receiving their commodities,” Yates told TT. “With increased rail traffic comes a higher demand for maintenance than ever before to ensure safe, uninterrupted movement of goods.”

The smallest grant, for $16,236, was awarded to the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority to repair the chute associated with the conveyor system that moves goods from the river to a storage yard. The storage area can accommodate the stacking of more than 2,000 tons of bulk material. According to the authority’s statement of work, the facility serves as a major transloader of bulk commodities and aggregates, which move from barge to storage yard to truck.

“River ports are as indispensable as air, rail and highway for the movement of cargo and bulk commodities,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said. “They create high-wage jobs, support our economy and help keep Kentucky competitive.”